Posted February 20th, 2011, 02:18 PM
Normally we book our own air and fly in a day early in case of any delays. Only once have we used a tour operator to book flights - on a Viking cruise in China - and that was because they were offering two-for-one fares.
We have a trip with Hurtigruten booked for Jan 2012. The tour starts in BA -- they fly us to Ush. and back -- so we either need to get ourselves to BA or book flights through them. It's too soon for them to give pricing so I'll at least wait and see what they come up with but I wonder if in general using them is the way to go.
I guess I'm worrying that any weather situation that would change or cancel their itinerary (or boat being hit by wave or running aground as we've been seeing in the last few months!) would make rebooking flights at the last minute a big (expensive) problem for us -- maybe more so than on a flight to Europe where there are more daily flight options. Also flying out of Philadelphia in January there's always the possibility of weather problems and if we book air with Hurtigruten we'll be a little more covered I think for problems/delays vs. having our own flights.
I do have trip insurance but I'm not sure if that would cover all types of changes/delays/weird situations that could arise as far as airfare is concerned. Also if it's a last minute problem there's a possibility of not finding another available seat so you could miss the trip altogether. Hmm... I know there's always risk involved - don't mean to overthink this but...any thoughts?
Thanks in advance.
As a general rule, you are FAR better off booking your own flights. There are more protections with flights booked directly with the airline. Fare rules for individual tickets dictate what options you have when problems occur.
In general, tour agencies/cruise lines book consolidator class tickets which are generally NON reroutable, NON changeable (without HUGE change fees-some almost twice what the airlines charge) and the real biggie-they are NON ENDORSABLE. What that means to you-they can ONLY be used on the airline that wrote the ticket. You CANNOT use your United issued ticket on an AA flight without United paying AA IN CASH for your seat. No tit for tat exchanging seats as with other tickets.
Example: Your trip starts at JFK to EZE (Buenos Aires). The cruise line books you on TAM with a stop at GRU. This flight leaves JFK at 7:40PM. For whatever reason-mechanical, crew hours, security shutdown in the terminal, whatever, you cannot board the plane and the flight is canceled. You CANNOT take that ticket, have TAM ENDORSE the ticket to AA and board the LAN/AA flight to EZE at 9:50 the same night. You will WAIT until TAM has another flight-the next night. Could you have missed your cruise??? VERY likely.
Ask 500+ people on the Star Princess "earthquake" cruise last March how well those cruise line booked tickets worked for them. They all missed their cruise. The tickets were NOT endorsable-so they could NOT reroute to EZE from SCL without a LARGE input of cash. One gentleman was charged $1100+ to reroute his ticket to meet the ship in Ushuaia. MORE than the original cruise air ticket cost.
All US airlines shut down service to Santiago. The US airlines were STILL flying into Buenos Aires, Rio and Lima. And some of the foreign airlines-LAN, JAL and AeroMexico provided bus service for their passengers from Buenos Aires and Mendoza to get their passengers to Santiago. BUT the cruise line tickets were NO GOOD on any of the other airlines, even IF the passenger was willing to take an 18 hour LUXURY bus ride (some South America long haul buses are more luxurious than first class airline seats on BA, Cathay and Qantas).
Your choice but if you read the fine print in almost all cruise contracts-air, hotels, shore excursions, etc. etc. sold OUTSIDE a package (like your Antarctica trip with shore excursions, intra SA air and hotels which is a highly specialized trip) are booked as a CONVENIENCE and the cruise line is NOT responsible for anything.